Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dungeon mapping with

A few weeks back, I made it to the finals of the "So You Want to be an OSR Superstar" contest at Tenkar's Tavern, and was faced with the task of completing a map.  Normally I draw my maps by hand, with pencil and graph paper, old school style, but this time the map had to be in a format able to be submitted by email.  I don't have a scanner, so the most viable option was to draw the map in digital form right on the computer - a daunting prospect.  There was nothing to do but roll up my sleeves, figuratively speaking, and teach myself how to use image editing software to draw a serviceable dungeon map.  Along the way, I rediscovered the joy of mapping, and learned a few tricks, which I will now proceed to share in the form of this little tutorial.

I use, because it's free, and because it has a few features that are handy in drawing basic dungeon maps. If you don't already have it, get it here

Step 1: Find your background image, and open it with  I'm using a plain graph paper background for this project, but you could just as easily use a parchment or stone background, or whatever else appeals to you.  You could even use both a decorative background and a graph paper grid by layering the graph paper over the decorative background, and adjusting the Opacity setting on the graph paper layer so the layer underneath shows through it.

Pretty exciting so far, huh?
Step 2: Add more layers.  You'll see the Layers tab on top near the left side of the screen.  Click it and choose Add New Layer.  You'll want layers for rooms and corridors, dungeon details, room numbers, and optionally a path sketch of the dungeon.  This way, if you screw up something in one layer, you can erase it relatively easily without endangering the rest of your work.

Now, click on each layer in the small Layers window that will appear somewhere in the lower right of your screen.  Go back up to the Layers tab at the top of the screen, and select Layer Properties.  Here you can name your layers, which is important for keeping things straight.  You can also set the transparency of layers, which can be useful in just a bit...

Step 3 (optional):  On a blank layer, use the paintbrush tool (set at a size of about 4 or 5) to sketch out a rough path showing routes through the dungeon.  I find this to be a good way of laying things out in a rough sort of way, without being too concerned about perfection yet.  Once you do that, go back to the Layer Properties menu and turn the Opacity setting down, around 50 or so.  This makes the path grid lighter and less obtrusive when you go to draw your actual dungeon rooms and corridors.

Not the finest example of Jaquaying the dungeon, but you get the gist.

Step 4: Draw the rooms and corridors!  A line width of about 3 works well for this.  Make sure you activate your rooms and corridors layer before you start.  You can draw freehand with the paintbrush tool, draw straight lines with the line and curve tool (and drag the points on the line to stretch it into a curve), draw rectangles, ellipses, triangles, trapezoids, and more with the shape tool.  Rotate as desired using the arc-with-arrows icon that appears near the object.  Make sure you get the sizes right and the lines all lined up the way you want them.  After creating each element, you can grasp it by the four-way arrow that appears near the object and drag them around to place them just right.  Once you move on to the next thing, though, it's set in stone.  If you want to change it after that, you'll have to use Undo in the Edit menu.  If you do several things in between, you'll have to go back and Undo them sequentially to get to the one you really wanted to change, so it's worth getting it right the first time if you can.  Make sure all your lines meet with no gaps.

Most of the rooms here are drawn with the appropriate shape tool.  The rectangular rooms with one rounded side are drawn with the line tool, and the final wall is stretched into a curve by dragging the points on the still-selected line.

Don't worry that the doorways are blocked.  There's an eraser for that.

Step 5: Use the eraser tool to remove any superfluous lines.  Zoom in close to do the job right!  Use many clicks rather than holding down the mouse button the whole time.  If you mess up, you can Undo each click separately, without losing all your progress.

Step 6: Fill in the empty space.  Use the bucket fill tool, and select whatever texture pleases you from the Fill bar at the top of the screen.  I like Large Confetti for solid rock.  Click every null space between your rooms.  If the fill pattern spills into your rooms or corridors, Undo and zoom in to check for gaps in your lines.  Turning down the Tolerance slider next to the Fill bar will help to keep the fill from leaking through tiny gaps, too.

Step 7: Activate your path sketch layer (if you have one) and make it invisible by unchecking it.  Now activate the details layer, and add doors, statues, fountains, stairs, and whatever else your dungeon needs.  You can draw them individually, or open up another window and create icons - little rectangles for doors, circles with stars in them for statues, etc.  Crop as closely as you can around the icons.  Save them, then go to the folder where they're saved, find the one you want, right click and select Copy.  Go back to the screen with your map on it, and select Paste from the Edit menu.  Your icon should appear on the screen.  You'll probably need to resize it.  Once that's done, drag it to where you want it using the four-way arrow, and adjust the orientation if necessary by clicking and dragging on the arc with arrows that appears next to it.  Now, while it's still selected, go to the Edit menu and click on Copy.  Now click Paste, and you've created an exact duplicate of your icon, which you can drag and reorient to use in another location.  Keep doing this to make all your doors, statues, and such uniform in size and shape.  Make sure you get all the items of one type placed before you move on to the next one. 

Use the brush tool with a width of 1 to draw stairs, daises, and similar details.  Use single dabs of the brush with a wide setting for pillars.

Use the text tool for secret doors.  Click near the place the door belongs and make an S, then drag it into position.  For horizontally oriented secret doors, rotate the map clockwise 90 degrees using the Image menu, place your S, then rotate it back 90 degrees counterclockwise.

Step 8: Activate the room numbers layer.  Click on each room, type the room number, and drag the number where you want it in the room.

Step 9: On the file menu, select Save As.  Name your map, and choose a format other than .pdn, such as jpeg or png.  The program will ask you if you want to flatten the layers down into one.  Do so.  Your map is now ready for printing!

If you want to save before finishing the map, use the program's native .pdn format, which preserves the layers.

Just add monsters and treasure.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What else can the cleric do with Turn Undead?

During my overhaul of the B/X cleric spell lists, I noticed some gaps, things that I didn't care to address with new spells (or importing old ones) but that clerics ought to be able to do.  Most of them involve the dead or undead.  As it turns out, they're rather elegantly addressed by creative applications of the Turn Undead ability.

Animate Dead:  B/X has an Animate Dead spell on the magic-user lists, but no spell for making animated skeletons and zombies is present in the cleric lists.  While such a spell did make it into the BECMI edition of classic D&D, it seems suited primarily for evil clerics.  Generally, the "evil" versions of cleric spells are the reversed versions, but this one is neither "good" or "neutral" in its standard form, nor does it have a reversed version, making it a bit of an oddball. 

Instead, let's make it a reversed Turning roll.  Turn skeletons to animate skeletons, and turn zombies to animate corpses with the flesh still on the bones.  Number of Hit Dice of undead created is equal to the Hit Dice that would be turned by a standard turning roll.  The Mentzer edition Animate Dead spell includes guidelines for animating corpses larger than human.  When using a Turn roll to animate larger bodies or skeletons, just roll against the type of undead that has a similar number of Hit Dice.  A skeleton has the same HD as the creature did in life, while a zombie has one more HD.

Obviously, moderate to high level clerics are certain to succeed at the attempt.  The real limiting factors are the availability of suitable corpses - those complete enough to function effectively when animated, but not barred from reanimating by Last Rites (see below) - and the cleric's willingness to animate undead in numbers beyond his or her ability to directly control them (see below.)

Last Rites:  One of the cleric's primary duties is to perform last rites over the dead, that they may rest in peace.  In game terms, that means rendering the corpses and spirits of the deceased unable to be animated or otherwise return as undead.  A roll that will turn zombies prevents a body from being animated by the Animate Dead ability.  When a character is slain by an undead that causes its victims to rise as undead of the same type, a successful Turn roll against that type before the dead person rises will prevent it.  If desired, this roll may be made by the DM in secret, and success is only apparent when the corpse or spirit fails to rise again.

Summon Undead:  Sometimes a cleric may want to summon undead creatures.  In that case, make a Turn roll, and consult the notes for the location.  If undead are present, compare the roll to the undead type.  A successul roll means that a number of Hit Dice of undead equal to the number normally turned are drawn to the cleric's call.  The cleric may try to call for a specific type of undead, or even a specific individual.  Intelligent and unwilling undead may make a saving throw vs. spells to ignore the summons.  May also be used for seances and similar rituals.

Control Undead:  Evil or necromantically-inclined clerics may wish to control the undead created or summoned.  A successful Turn roll can be used to control a number of HD of undead equal to the number normally turned.  That's all the undead the cleric can actually control at once.  If more are created or summoned, the excess undead remain uncontrolled.

Raise Dead:  The cleric can attempt to summon the spirit of a deceased person back to reinhabit its body.  The body must be relatively intact.  The roll is made vs. a vampire; if the turning roll fails, the resurrection goes horribly wrong, and the person rises as a vampire.  Note that the roll is made even if the table indicates a T or D result, and a natural roll of 2 always fails.  Because of this dire risk, most good churches frown upon the raising of the dead.

Monday, August 4, 2014

B/X Spell List Overhaul: Cleric spells, level 5

In B/X, cleric spells top out at 5th level, so this brings us to the end of the line for the cleric lists.  These are the heavy artillery of the cleric class, and thankfully, there's not a lot to tweak or weed out.  As always, italics indicate a spell that has been changed from the original in some way, and bold italics denote a new spell of my own creation.

  1. Commune
  2. Create Food
  3. Dispel Evil
  4. Heavenly Choir*
  5. Insect Plague
  6. Part Water
  7. Quest
  8. United Will

4. Heavenly Choir*

Range: 0
Duration: 1 round

This spell calls forth a wordless choir of angelic voices and a ray of pure white light from above, washing outward from the cleric in all directions to a radius of 30'.  All allies within the area are immediately healed of 1d6+1 points of damage, while undead and evil creatures suffer a like amount of damage.  Additionally, there is a 5% chance per level of the cleric for any affliction suffered by allies within the area of effect to be cured.  This includes sleep, fear, paralysis, poison, disease, curses, blindness, petrification, polymorph, and charm effects, but not energy drains nor Quest and Geas spells.  This chance is checked once per affliction per creature.  Thus, an ally suffering from paralysis and disease checks once for each.  A second ally suffering from paralysis would have to check again, separate from the first creature's check.

The reversed spell, Infernal Choir, produces a demonic chanting and a wave of darkness.  The spell causes 1d6+1 points of damage to all hostile good or neutral creatures in range, while healing undead and evil creatures of a like amount.  The caster may choose to inflict disease (as a mummy), fear (as the reverse of the Remove Fear spell), paralysis (as Hold Person), or a curse (as reverse of Remove Curse) on all enemies within 30', with a saving throw vs. spells being allowed for each target to resist the effect.

6. Part Water

Taken from the 6th level magic-user spell lists.  I have no idea why this was placed there, when parting the sea is quite clearly the province of the cleric, not the magic-user.

8. United Will

Range: 30'
Duration: 1 turn

By means of the Chain of Will spell, the cleric and one other character per three levels of experience become linked.  Whenever any of the characters linked is forced to make a saving throw or other roll to resist a harmful spell or effect, each one rolls, and if only one succeeds, the initial target resists the effect.  However, if all fail, then all are affected.  For example, a 9th level cleric casts this spell to link himself with three other party members.  An enemy magic-user casts Charm Person on the fighter, who fails his saving throw.  However, the other three members of the party also receive a saving throw, and if any one of them succeeds, the charm is resisted.  If all fail, then all are charmed.


Raise Dead:  To be brutally honest, I just don't like spells that make death cheap, and I don't want them in my campaign.  Of course, your mileage may vary.

B/X Spell List Overhaul: Cleric spells, level 4

We're getting up into the higher echelons of B/X clerical magic now.  No altered descriptions of standard spells this time, but three new ones and an import from Labyrinth Lord.

  1. Create Water
  2. Dispel Magic
  3. Invulnerability*
  4. Leap of Faith
  5. Neutralize Poison
  6. Privacy Ward
  7. Protection From Evil 10' Radius
  8. Tongues

1. Dispel Magic

Exactly as the 3rd level magic-user spell of the same name.  (B/X does not include Dispel Magic in the cleric spell lists, but BECMI does.  It seems fitting that a cleric should be able to dispel potentially blasphemous spells.)

3. Invulnerability*

Range: 60'
Duration: 1 round per level

The spell of Invulernability may be cast on the cleric himself or on one other creature within range.  For the duration of the spell, the subject is immune to damage from non-enchanted weapons.  The spell does not confer immunity to cold, fire, lightning, poison, or acid, whether normal or magical, nor to the attacks of creatures with 8 or more Hit Dice.  The immunity does extend to normal physical traps, such as darts, blades, and falling rocks.

The reversed spell, Vulnerability, cancels a creature's immunity to normal weapons for the duration of the spell. No saving throw is allowed.

4. Leap of Faith

Range: 240'
Duration: Concentration

With a Leap of Faith, the cleric calls into being some non-living, non-magical object, which exists only for those who have faith in its existence.  The object must be of a type the cleric has seen before, and must fit entirely within a space of a 20'x20'x20' cube.  The caster automatically has faith in the existence of the object, but other observers must succeed at a saving throw vs. spells to believe.  Those of the same religious faith as the caster gain a +4 bonus to the save.  Those who believe in the object may interact with it as if it were real.  Thus, a ladder may be climbed, a bridge may be crossed, a boat may be boarded, or a pool of water at the bottom of a cliff may break one's fall.  Those who do not believe will see those who do seemingly interacting with thin air in ways that defy reason.  The objects created by the spell simply do not exist for them, and any attempt to use them will fail accordingly.
 The spell lasts as long as the cleric concentrates on it.  The level of concentration required is fairly light, allowing the cleric to move at half speed and defend himself, but not to attack or cast additional spells. 

6. Privacy Ward

Range: 0
Duration: 1 turn per level

When the Privacy Ward spell is cast, an area up to 30' in diameter centered on the cleric is shielded from detection.  The cleric may choose a smaller diameter if desired.  For the duration, the area is undetectable to scrying magic, including ESP, clairvoyance, and crystal balls.  In addition, the spell causes creatures outside the warded area to ignore those within it, similarly to the level 1 Sanctuary spell.  Characters or creatures actively searching for the cleric or associates must make a saving throw vs. spells, with failure indicating that they simply do not notice anything amiss in the warded area.  Others will only enter the warded area if they have some specific reason to do so unrelated to the cleric and his or her party, i.e. a known watering hole is within the warded area or a known path runs through it.  Random encounter checks are reduced to half normal chances while the ward is in effect.

8. Tongues* (adapted from Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion)

Range: 0 (cleric only)
Duration: 1 turn

For the duration of the spell, the cleric can understand and speak the spoken language of any and all intelligent creatures in a 30' radius circle.  The spell does not allow comprehension of written language.

The reversed spell, Garble, makes spoken language of any sort incomprehensible within a 30' radius circle.  It may be projected to a range of up to 60', so that the caster need not be caught within the area of effect.  Spell casting is not affected.

Out to pasture:

Cure Serious Wounds: Rendered superfluous by the level-scaling catch-all Cure Wounds spell, here.

Speak With Plants: Here's another one that belongs on a druid list.  It just doesn't fit my concept of a traditional cleric.

Sticks to Snakes: See above.